Monday, December 31, 2007


MR. CRUNCHY


(part three)


This dance you do, what do you call it?
I call it the No-Skin Crispy.
I call it the Nutra-Sweet Goose-step.
And this thing between us is not love,
but waxy build-up.

Call me by my real name; Mr. Crunchy.
Call me by my real name; Microsoft Willy.
Call me sugar when I melt at your mouth-step,
filled with a fever of false promises.
Call me Son of Cheese-Wiz,
Son of Sons of the American Spread.

I will cover this landscape in redundance.
I will cover it with the flu of surrender.
I will check on the status of my deadened heartbeat
and think, “This will be the only sound
I’m hearing when I dance, when I dance,
the only sound I’m hearing
when I dance from now on…”

Saturday, December 29, 2007


AFFIRMATION


It’s not that I am dead. It’s not that.
It’s just that I’ve been burnt a little, that’s all.
When that happens, you tend to loosen up,
in terms of slipping. Parts gone since
you last checked them. Funny.
Things seem to run fine, even in their absence.
Maybe they weren’t needed to begin with.
There’s so much excess baggage nowadays,
it’s hard to tell.

The circle has wandered farther than the name
we put on it, its’ letters spread so thin
they barely cast a shadow.
We don’t even recognize them
as letters anymore; just long, deliberate slashes
made through the landscape---to tell time, perhaps,
or was it to measure miles?

The mechanism rusts in the desert.
I keep walking, hoop through hoop.
It’s not that I am dead.
I just keep walking through.

Friday, December 28, 2007


EPIPHANY


Things work out. Things always work out.
How many times can we fool ourselves? There are candles burning out there, there are lights that stay on all night.
The glow on the sill lasts long

after the switch is hit off,

but still we turn our shoulders
like the bows of ships

toward what might hit us,

and we curse the things that bring us here.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


AGE OF GRACE


Suddenly, all the clocks fell dead.
Their arms went limp, rigor mortis set in.
The front doors blew open.
Those of us inside were finally coming out.

We were sons abandoning our fathers, children

who left the radio on, the faucet running, the oven burning high as they stepped greedily into the sunlight.
It was an age of grace, I think,

and all we could do was pick up and leave.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


PRESS HERE TO ACCESS SEXUAL HEALING
I love to see you this way;
your wide-spread, circuited body.

You who were once so distant from me,
now made an infinitely soft-wear.

My keyboard shimmers in symphony

with all twenty of the programmable senses,

my fingers press further

through this gnarled and circuited light. My joy-stick begins its’ joyful wagging, dancing like an ice skater freed from my palm:

(The pleasure center is under control.)
(The pleasure center is open for business.)

(The pleasure center has been seized by terrorists.
Please stand by.)

So many buttons to push, so little free time…

Tuesday, December 25, 2007



THE PRODIGAL GODZILLA


(part 2)


The president’s forehead grows thin as paper. Inside,
a fire is burning, whole libraries are turned to ash.
The White House becomes a party hat,
passed around drunkenly by the side of the pool.
No one can decide a thing.


Switchblades flick open; horrible abortions are performed

In the shadow of the golden arches; Everyone is on

A blood-mad search for the True Son, the Son of the King.

If they can kill him, they might feel a little better.

Everyone’s in a mood that’s a lot like drowning.


Now their fingers strum a symphony on my belly.

They clamor for the placented sunlight to stream from me.

They are hungry; there can be no waiting.

They’ve always played a game with fear.

Now they want the real thing.


My breath, the angel wings of butane.

This is my body, I give you this gift.

I will give fire back its’ original name.

Monday, December 24, 2007


THE PRODIGAL GODZILLA


(part 1)


When I was old enough to stay up late without a babysitter,

the TV transfixed me: I would sit, afraid to let the blue glow fade,
to feel the cold photo of night press itself against the picture window, because I knew Godzilla would be there,
taken from the screen

like a drop from a petrie dish suddenly grown full-size and looming.

Godzilla, some stillborn child put on this earth horribly starving,

with a throat thimble-thin and a gullet wide as an ocean,
full of a depleted vocabulary of fire and rage, never able
to express his needs and so hated, fired upon

by toy armies of reason.


Godzilla, I get back the X-ray from the hospital;

He’s in me now, trashing against my ribcage.

I knew junk food was a curse, but not this bad.
I didn’t know it could have children. Now my womb
swallows the sky, and everyone is watching.

Sunday, December 23, 2007



HOW TO TAKE A LUNCH BREAK


Today, at lunchtime, I wish my eyesight could take me with it,

to glide the oil-slick East River waters, or to hover
in a nest of cool shadows beneath the Brooklyn Bridge,
and hear the cars screaming past, voices trapped

in their own relentless momentum.
Today, I wish I had the wind for hands,
so I could strum the steel twine of the Brooklyn Bridge

like a Marx Brothers’ harp, and play out the rapid pulse-rate of this day.

Today, I wish for an end to things—or a beginning.

I wish the “Watchtower” clock across the river,

which flashes the successive death of each

passing minute, would suddenly tell a new story,

would proclaim in a crowning digital display:


NOW

NOW

NOW

Saturday, December 22, 2007


SCHISM RELEASE


And suddenly, the walls around you are lifted, and you’re talking

to an audience you didn’t even know was there.

While outside, some cheap, hard-boiled narrator tosses off

one last cigarette into the East River, to ignite all the lost

gasoline and precious fluids floating on its’ surface,

and as the wall of screaming heat climbs higher,
and your forehead is a billboard selling, “SWEAT!”

all you can do is turn to your neighbor and shout,

“Some weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

RAW FOOTAGE


We are all swarming toward something, some vast light source.

We are like the nameless warriors at Troy, who threw themselves

at Helen’s beauty, only to be cast off and broken.

It is those who know how to get their actions “read”
who are remembered: an Achilles or a Hector with their sense
of good timing--when to enter a scene, when to stay out of it,
when, even, to die. Without that, the film reels loop and hiss,

gathering skin-moist in layers on the floor. Just hour after hour

of raw footage, taken as a security precaution, and nothing more.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


BATTERY


Run your tongue upon the withered zinc; the dampness will help the connection.
If you slipped me in your pocket and held me close,
my radium, my quick-twisted crown,

I would know something so subterranean,
it could make me sing.

I will arc across streetlights and saliva, the dashboards will glow blue
with drowning, or submission.

The song will come in slow, broken pauses,

the dance will ache like the palm
on the hip of some distant cousin…

(Don’t slap me---I’m not through yet)
We’ll whisper the names already asked toward forgiveness:
My third grade teacher, my hypodermic nurse,
my father blackening the air with gin swills.

Oh, slit open the skin, as batteries run low;

Let the charge run home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


SCENARIO

"Do you begin to see there is no face there in the tarnished mirror?"
—William Burroughs


Gun-toting racist lawmen swagger drunkenly across the landscape.

Sexually repressed secret agents plot each other's demise. Hidden

enclaves of technocrats vie for power and unleash deadly viruses.
A young boy abruptly blooms into a red-haired wolf, leathery femalesnake-beasts invade the English countryside.

We begin to see this story as its own kind
of viral replication, endlessly mutating itself into new forms.

The leathery she-beast is now a captive sideshow attraction.
Expose all faulty wiring and cheap, duct-taped bandstands,
the hollow flash of out-dated tricks! The trappings are there,

but their mechanisms are left dangling, half-completed.


We hear the staccato police report, the carnival huckster,

the dispassionate scientist, the Hollywood censors;

all purveyors of noxious light.

We wait for the explosion.


Once it’s over, we are left

with bald cacophonies, with a sick nostalgia

for a time just before the bomb went off---
the silence that up until then, we chose to ignore.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


ANOTHER EMPIRE


It is Easter Sunday. A ruined egg on the pavement

reminds me; its scattered shell the blue tint of the virgin.

Girls in their pink dresses look ambiguous, swivel

their small hips to salsa, or lean from ground-floor windows,

blow kisses to each other, waiting for church.

Behind them in their darkened apartments,
the immaculate corpse looks on, hung
from his cross above the solemn brown TV console,
its’ volume turned down.
In the park, on beaten stubble fields, families play soft ball, launch rockets from which white plastic statuettes of astronauts fall with parachutes back to the earth.
Children run to collect the remains. There is nothing simple in this.

Each event unfolds, small and cautious. Airplanes mark the sky

with their blue-etched trails. What is seen through the corner

window can seem as distant as a radio broadcast; can be us

or others. I see the slow smoke of restlessness,

momentum as its own song.

Monday, December 17, 2007


GRACE RUN IT THROUGH ME


Don't leave me, as sunlight spreads

its wound through the broken-jawed
doorways of morning. Don't let me
forget how I stood here, mouth open,
afraid what might enter.

There are diamonds still caught

in the tough black gullets of crows
who swing toward the sun.
There are still fish alive in this river--
bright as coins they flash, searching the bottom

There are children racing

through nervous pews,

who trace dust on black Bible fronts,

and dream of cars like red-painted animals

with doors open, waiting for them.


There are men who jostle and shout
around the spuming back of a garbage truck.
In the muddled half-sleep of work,

their faces dance to each other

like drowned garments.

They think of going home to touch

their lovers, to run the shiver

like a current through their fingers.


This is the shudder,

the current,

the hollow collapse.


Oh Grace,
I will not break.
Run it through me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007





EMPTY PALM


Toss your arms toward winter, when summer
is the barren ground. Your loved ones become icons;
senseless saints and vibrant clowns.
The hand that reaches is the hand that creates,
is the one that refuses, turning all beauty to waste.
My prayer is the slim leaf that falls open
when no one else is around.

Friday, December 14, 2007


UNION


Our skin is just starting to come apart. I feel it
like an annoying burr, how it catches on my bones,
while all the howling circumference is around me, waiting to come in.

No wonder we are on edge, when the teetering

data banks are just waiting to infuse us
with a sense of something greater; whale sounds, ocean's pulsings, and suddenly
I am held fast to the catacombed bones of the earth,

and a silver-haired, white-skinned hag kisses me

with cold lips and tells me impossible things.


And then I am alone on rain-dark open grass plains,
the first garble of man sounding around me,
cousin of skin who would eat me without pause.

How I could grow hair like him,

let it flood me, coarse and luxurious…

Thursday, December 13, 2007


BEYOND HUNGER


You hate the feeling of looking over your shoulder,

but then there I am. How about this:

I'm the younger brother, the one reckless
and beautiful, who tipped the speedometer toward red,
and now returns after years of quiet with an itchy

trigger finger and the insistent promise that this is it,
the last scam, the last chance for us both to cash in.
As soon as the porch door clicks shut behind me, you know
only trouble can come from my hunched but vibrant silhouette.

Or how about this one: I'm your bleached-blond ex-lover,

who split for beauty school and Hollywood a life-time ago,

but now comes back, oily and sensuous, barely coiled
inside my red satin dress. That's the one where
the sweat on your forehead matches your internal landscape,

your constant state of indecision, until in a burst of fatal passion

you thrust me across the card table, spilling
drinks and religious icons,
giving yourself up
to the kind of love that always spells death.


Some say I’m beyond hunger. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


SINGLE MAN BLUES


A single man

A carpenter, plumber or electrician
Clattering along in a panel truck
Thoughts with his coffee gone cold


A single man, but
An ocean flows inside him

Grey shores circling the narrow

Coastline of his skull


He knew it was there

But turned his eyes from it


But if a single man would break

The streets would be flooded

The world would be water

And all this forgotten


Except for a single thing

An old dresser knob

Or a child’s wooden hammer

Left floating

A reminder of industry

That hands sleep somewhere below

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


FROZEN


It came like this…I thought the ice was trying to tell me something.

My whole weekend full of suffused and glittering light, battered
by its brilliance, and the best any of us could come up with is, "It sure is pretty out there."

All the branches the leaves tree trunks windows clock faces

encased in ice, a world of frozen blossoms, a world remade,

brittle, temporary...
We walked and slid in clumsy pirouettes across its smooth
and stiffened skin, the flecked-off fragmented stars

stared down, spinning and spinning, and the cold empty

sky opened as my mouth opened, full of purple breath bruises,


pushed out, set aflame.

Monday, December 10, 2007


ENTROPY DELEGATE


We are all coming apart, piece by piece.
Here, the lost have voices, delicate as insects,
or the smallest yawn of tides dragging us under,

calling our ears to listen.


Here, that man with the dirty wet newspaper a week old

can speak in any voice allowed him, can quote numbers,

artifacts, tired marrow, the particular grin of car hoods,
the hoops of air that birds made leaping through him.

Here, that language speaks on and on,
a bludgeoned silhouette that never runs out of words.
Here, he is our mission.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


CONTAGION PRAYER


Let the others shut the door, turn off the lights.
Let the silence bicker and murder itself until morning,

so we can turn to face each other
with the drowsy sense of new-borns.
Let the riveted acres of the dead stretch on.

Our tongues flash, like car hoods with nothing on them.

Each new day bursts open, contagious with the past...

Friday, December 7, 2007


PURE


Had a pure moment tonight, going to see “Fly Ashtray” at CBGB’s

after a vicious, tremendous thunder and lightening squall
all over
Manhatta and outlying regions, the drains overflowing,
women running,
skipping puddles, holding up paper plates
in dainty, old-fashioned defense
against the weather;
all this stirred-up energy, and there I was, waiting

for the light to change, ducking under the nearest canopy
to escape the rain,
and I spot James out in front of CBGB’s
catching a smoke, and the lightening
flashes, soundless now
over the roof tops above him, and the restaurant/bar
where I’m seeking shelter actually starts playing, “Gimme Shelter”
by the Stones, a great tribal-rhythm song, and suddenly, my pulse
starts
racing with the shots of Jim Beam running through me,
and it’s life
during war-time, and I’m raggedly ecstatic
waiting to cross the street
to meet my friends
and hear the dirgey gargoyle crowings of this,

our precious beast, our broken back, our rock ‘n’ roll…

Thursday, December 6, 2007




PATIENCE


I am an amnesia patient of greater heaven.
I come up, mouth open, and all the wonder
I could feel is a dull and half-lit thing,

a distant companion, something wrapped
in burlap cloak and bandaged feet,
while the gulls circling above

the earth mock and shriek and leave
a single feather, a fluttering abundance,
something that when you find it you think
is yours alone and was meant only for you--
This is time muscled and bearded with teeth,
set to dripping just as it's stopped.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


PROGRAM


Would that I'd foreseen you casting doubt
on all I've created. Would that I could cancel doubt
from every existent program. What do you bring me?

Hands full of famine, eyes like penniless oxides…

Does this count as knowledge? No!


Yours is one of the shortest nations
born from withered bones.

But just look at the neutered muskets,
the three-corner hats
turned at a jaunty angle
during any recent small-town parade.

What once drew blood is now

the silken puff of illusionary corn starch.
Name the bullet, name the substance. I could erase them all in an instant.
I am the speed-dial, the viral rewrite,
all that is best
forgotten given a new name.
You should really learn
to love me.
It’s going to end up in the program, anyway…

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


THE HOT FLESH BALLET


I love to see the blank billboards at night,
like sails for a voyage not yet taken.
I want to climb the pure white
background, act out shadowized remnants
of some third-grade play for passers-by
on the high way, cause a few to swerve
shuddering into the guard rail.

Afterwards, the rubber-necking packs
will strain themselves, gazelle-like

and blood-seeking, while a loudspeaker spouts,

“Here is another death caused by art!”And in the ensuing wave of mass hysteria,
new government crack-downs against
play-acting in the dark.

It’s like something I saw last week--
“The Hot Flesh Ballet.”

Tap-dancing on the third rail;

(the performances didn’t last long).
It made you think who would be that crazy,
that desperate to fill up the stunned
and empty expanse of our free time?


But you didn’t even mind the delay
as the squads came in to clear

the blackened remains of the dancers away.

NEAR THE DROWNING


Men still dangle fishing lines and traps,
drag up a plastic six-pack holder,
lank with seaweed.

They laugh at what they're missing.


TV helicopters tear wide the twilight,
carrying news like a vaccine.
The water is sick, a snake peeling its skin,
grey and glittering.

The sun burns in one final burst.

The Chrysler Building glows

like a church steeple tainted with gold.
Seven shafts of light fall upon huddled
brown housing projects.

And the river moves in the way it always
moves, full of its’ dark, constant rewritings.

Every open mouth gives up something.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


HIDES


There, past the blazing green

and kicked-up, scalded dust,

behind the monkey bars that hung

like the ghost-bones of astronauts,

where the shade curled by the split-wood fence,

that’s where we hunched, furtive

and hot-breathed, scouring the sick mystery

of older kids: smashed beer cans
and the rain-stuck pages of old porn mags,
cracked and dried like animal hides in the grass.


We fought over their furtive, glossy limbs,

brought back tatters to stick in our desks.
We glanced at them between science lessons,
where we studied half-finished men
in crinkling, plastic text book diagrams, peeling back a hazy lung or spleen,
like we were digging down to the heart
of some Colorforms murder victim.

I knew the secret wound of my body.
I knew what was worth hiding.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


FIRST BORN SON


He grips his shaft, shy as a crab's palpus
testing the dark. He has just been dreaming
of entering everyone he has ever known.
A freight train moans ponderously through him,
swaying its shank of metal across long-dead

sea-beds of Mid-West. He is long gone,
too far gone, afraid of his window,
of eyes that might flare out there,

harsh and valpecular beneath hedge-light.
He has spent a life-time retranslating road signs
he has read, comparing the crumbling mountains

and waterless rills of the moon to his own mother's

thronged and sagging flesh. He has grown old

listening to her bathroom coughing fits.
Now, somehow, he feels larger than the billboard
that blares white and empty by the entrance to the highway.

He is almost there, can hear the slow grind

of traffic signals shifting, green to red,

the hush and rustle of night-time wheat fields all around, closing in.
He has woken to know that no one thing owns him,
that to grow is not a tangle of roots, but release.

SPANNING


This city lost in mist, grey as the cold
statues of the dead we know
are dead just by touching them.

In this mist which looks like remembrance,

I cross a bridge between two boroughs.


I like this span of metal,

the arch and rigid grip of it.

How it holds the thrumming of trucks
close to its marrow, how they pulse up through my feet, a deliberate memory,
long after they've rattled past.

Strangers meet, slung between two points,

fingering switch-blades and nervous coins.
All their furtive iconography of want,
like mileage counters clicking silently

on each blue-lit dashboard below.
Nothing holds me here.

In the wind, the hump-backed

frozen bones of concrete,

the stricken hypodermic of buildings,

I am remembering you.


I wish you could know

what my mouth tastes like now.

My lips are open, I am spanning.

Friday, November 30, 2007


ENTREATY


I come up from the subway, where hunchbacks play
the accordion and drag long bags of laundry. I head

for the all-night deli, where a bulb has flickered out,

so it shouts to me, "ALL IGHT...ALL IGHT...ALL LIGHT"

I step beneath its canopy, to let the folds
of harsh florescence take me in, and I look around,
witnessing the busy litter of late-night items:

oranges wrapped in newspaper, cantaloupe chunks

steaming, and the coffee sodas all laden with a yet

undiscovered poison. It's in their bright, quick

arrangements that I suddenly see a random
grammar; foil wrap and chemically induced color
all flashing out mantras I begin to recite convulsively.


I see Abraham Lincoln watching a View-Master presentation

of the Moon Launch and saying, "There's not a free man

among them" and then wondering, "Is my check in the mail yet?"

I see the CEOs of Microsoft smearing their bodies

with bear fat to keep warm for the winter, while outside

Xerox machines spit out replicas of the rain forest,

inch by square inch. I see the new fruit glowing

like an emergency inside my vultured grip.

I say, "The story is dying, the story is dying.
Don't let the story die yet..."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


ZEUS GETS A HAIR-CUT


Well, let me start this by saying, “Fuck you all!”

You think scattering my thick, black curls
will make me small, leave me a scalded mountain in my bed-sheet, as fit for the morgue as the barber?
It means nothing less than nothing to me.
You're all so desperate nowadays to bring low
that which confounds your careful rooms,
your four even corners.

Yeah, well, I held court in a hall with ten times

that many sides, while I set fire to drunken ingrates,

laid diagnose to a nation of infected throats.

Fuck the climate control! I want the fever
that's coming to me.

I still dream of maidens by above-ground pools.

I dug into them as a worm through rotted wood.

You think I'm ashamed of that? My hump

showing white beneath star-light younger than I am?

I've put myself through a lot worse just for a little contact.
Never mind you would burn in a second

from the glory of my open chest.


All I wanted was your dust, your cast-offs,

your incidental sweat, an eye-drop to see my reflection in.

But you, the dry ones, so sure of your counting, your medicine;

One lock, two, the whole mane come tumbling.
Who's to say I didn't want it this way?

That your slow dissection is not itself a kind of worship?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


TRANSIENT


The spirits that live with us are dying. Each summer

we spend away from them, their voices grow dimmer.

Trampled here beneath these mile-high pylons of bone

is the smell of the first season, is your hair growing long,

is the time you first caught scent of your own body

and thought, “I've been smelling that all my life!”


Someone just shoved past me who could be an old lover
or a dead ancestor, but what does it matter?

Faces become emblems of themselves.
We are shuttled from tunnel to tunnel, through miles
of massed blackness, our heads bobbing like long rows

of candles on an altar, waiting to be blown out.


The light comes on again. “Exit.” We jostle and push

toward our next hurried birth.

Monday, November 26, 2007


WHITE NOISE


I go looking for the white light of your skin in the rain. I go with the clinging impulse of dust to clutch the small noise your body gives off.
When I strain, I can catch it, even in this churning

chain-smoked bar. Our brief time together has taught me

your silence is a buried trick, thick with awkward

dresses, the ugly flowers of childhood,
living rooms that gave off cold and never heat,
your father calling distractedly over the racket of jazz.

Your silence a tightly packed blossom that might explode

into spore, drowning your lungs, your voice.


It is raining. You are leaving tonight.
Rivers are joining to set off black currents between us.
Leaves are bursting into murderous green bounty,

the air is choking with life,

more weight to a city already too heavy.

Bats shriek nervously above the park,

the siren-wide, stretching pale light

of empty playing fields, where rain falls

in the smallest of particles, gathered

in vast black nets of grass.
When I feel like this, I feel
I could come apart in my own hands,

I could hold you.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


AURORA


In the summer, we go on trips. The lawn grows, the moon rises
while we are gone. We read the billboards on the way down,
but coming back, they'll be different.
For a while we float, as made up as balloons.
We look at him in the front seat, hunched at stop lights,
sweat clinging to his white dress shirt.
We hear him curse and fumble with maps.

Right now, far above us, on the moon we won't see
for another five hours, Apollo is accomplishing its mission.
The kicked-up dust hangs behind them
in dead-air tendrils as they make their way.
Stuck in traffic jams and broiling heat, we think
of the possibilities that TV has taught us;
of the astronauts' re-entry failing, of them burning up
in orbit, reduced to nothing but meat.
We hit speed bumps, jolt into rest stops for blessed
soda pop and the terrifying urinals of adults.

Then, we're back in the back seat again, ready
to shuffle our toys, telling new stories
as the afternoon lengthens and the moon pulls into view.
It burns above the super-heated blue of the highway—
but there are men up there, there are men!
Down here, we are Army generals, glow-in-the-dark
Aurora models snatched from lacquered dresser tops:
Wolf-Man, Mummy, Frankenstein,
poised to strike with the perfectly-tanned sabre-tooth
at the last remnants of the Planet of the Apes.

We are the angry men we've yet to become.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


UISGUE BEATHA*

(*Gaelic word for whiskey, literally: "Water of Life")


The water I come from grows smaller;
a puddle, rivulet or mug.
What glitters in strips across rooftops, on dirty
ponchos and slow-breaking waves of faces, is not the
same as what once ran from house gutters, where I
cupped my hands in some small semblance of prayer,

not the same as the stream that slid through dark
curves of earth, where the red lizard ran
and doves were left in bloody tangles as totems or offerings, "Don't go beyond this."

The old women called me from the woods,
their china teeth stained with sugar and tea.

All I found were pine needles and the terrifying eyes
of crows. The older kids, stinking of gasoline,

tried to teach me how to strangle birds,

but I wouldn't listen.


I lay down beneath the flag of my country:

a red-checkered picnic cloth.

I saw my ancestors curled on it, amidst the sharp-
edged grass by the river bank, applauding fireworks,
and later, artillery shells.


I saw them pass milk and bourbon, cold chicken,

fresh butter spooled out beneath the fading sun.

I saw them act amazed when their men stared out
at them like grey-coated ghosts from newspapers and
wanted posters, but the eyes,
a shunted, dense anger, were of a color
they poured into them, same as the bourbon.

There were questions I had from the back-seat, about
funerals and grand-ma's panties.

I forgot them. I drove around,

Schlitz and finger-fucking behind grave stones.
There were fire-works, video-blips of exploded towns,
broken teeth of the quarter-back I never wanted to
be. There was a thirst I learned

for drink, furious, my tongue

plying the dryness between my father's ribs.

Now the water comes, and I can't leave it.

Endure me.

Friday, November 23, 2007


ROUGH SCRIPTURE


I am bending the leaves of autumn to my liking.
I am a dunce knitting them together at some
arts 'n' crafts camp. I'll fold their stricken
golds and reds into tin cups to feed the needy,
I will create from them a whole diorama
of the city's populace holding hands, and wait, numbly smiling for someone's approval.

I will sit there and still hear the leaves falling,
stitching their piecemeal armor to the highway,

while tires sluice through a late rain outside.
I will see headlights fall through the front gates,
send their caustic gaze my way, until the engine

shuts off, ticks over: another
family member stopping by to rattle my cage.

Oh, I know they have their hopes: that I will grow

to be an adult, driving on a highway past fifty

anonymous front gates just like this one and not
think another thing, that the leaves will fall to words
like "Bourbon" and "Automatic Traction,"
that I will have one damn pop-song so stuck
in my head I couldn't get rid of it even if you shot me.

But I want to stay as stupid as I am right now.


Because each leaf that falls meets the soil,

and you know what happens then, don't you?
I was born of a few leaves falling and I count them,
gathering them up into a rough scripture that’ll do

no good, because the last line always ends with,

"Forget."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


DOMINION


Bells toll in the distance, announcing a long and steady ache.
This day begins and ends like a kingdom. As if nothing
were your own, as if the next word you spoke

could be traced back to the first word ever spoken,
and so on. I think of the perfect egg cream waiting
at the corner luncheonette, where men with sagging faces

and arms like rough corded fire-wood crack their beer cans
and talk about the last days of some other empire.

A story is being told. Wrap the dying hero
in his bloody birth-cloth and launch him;
this has been going on too long.
The father who curses his daughter for losing

a quarter in the pay phone, who kicks his son

for wearing the same swollen, slit-eyed expression

he does, who grips and grips a roll of electrician's tape

and a half-drunk Pepsi while he lists the fifty-odd

forms of hate; there is nothing personal in that.
It is all part of a larger dominion.

Look, the father rises, puts on his work boots and a few
sturdy words; he's a new man by the end of the weekend.
His daughter's lips are crooked and blue. She has a story

to tell at school that Monday, about the beginning of the world.
In it, her father's hand is a fish.

There is nothing alive on the surface of a snow-pop.

When the sun melts us, that is all we have inside—

a wooden popsicle stick. They are gathered
and sterilized and brought to the school nurse,
to depress the tongue. Is this a time of sickness?
A mouth hangs open, and from that

words and words will come.

Your forehead is hot, is it a fever?
Is this where the world came from?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


LIKE THE FALL


What can I tell you? Tonight, I am the bitter but romantic sea captain, standing drunk at the prow
while his ship heads into impossible storms, raging mists.

My crew has deserted me. I have drained the decanters

of all my highly honored guests, who recently fled by helicopter.
I am at last left alone with my terrible secret.
It is like the fall of Saigon, except I am one man. It is not a nation I am abandoning, a way of life—
it is not even a woman. I want to remain
an anachronism, a thing of the past;
the man who would say nothing.
Better to slip into ruin with sea-spray and whiskey,

dizzily listing the constellations that once guided my way.


Now watch. This is my best moment---where I break

my empty glass and throw the shards into the boiling waves.

Where I smile and bleed and accept my fate,
heading toward a collision that is certain
but never shown.

Monday, November 19, 2007


COMPOSITE


Have you ever contributed to your own composite sketch?

Shift the graphite a little to the left, shade the nostrils a bit,

make them flare, enlarge the ear lobes, crook the smile

like a clothes hanger?


There's no such thing as strangers. You've met them all

at one time or another. It’s in the tiniest details

that we give ourselves away.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


TIRED PARAMOURS


The polish has gone out of the world
There’s no talking to the boys and girls Outsourced ugliness all the time
And we stumble over ourselves to
“Make mine, make mine”

I go walking with a thread in my head
I don’t stop until there’s a noose instead The koda-chrome trees are making like mimes
And I’m already late to

“Make mine, make mine”


The asylum gets asylum, the doors swing wide
A poison Kool-Aid moon changes the tide
And the tired paramours of a dying line Wait in the shadows to
“Make mine, make mine”


The parade’s in a shambles, the float’s on fire

Someone’s screaming to a higher power

We’re always alone, but it’s not funny this time

Because all we tried to do was

“Make mine, make mine”

Saturday, November 17, 2007


NO CASA DE MANNA


In this city, yellow-smoke sky,
Carnival groans, skeletal cries,

I seek the leaf, the frond, the bloom--
Fire the wallpaper of my room!
Lay your shadow inside my wound.

Leak your tincture to crusted ruins. Awake to me the startled grip
of branches sprung from ribcage-crypt.


No Casa de Manna for you--

It's doors shut to such solitude. Enlightenment's opened a franchise,
All ablaze with peace-bloated eyes.
Something ferocious, this repose-- Carnivorous and razor-boned.
An ache of sweat, gasoline lungs,

Means to an end, corrupted sums.


I smell the cannibal afloat
In steaming street-side vendor's moat
of Orange Crush and hot pork pies--

Sell the weakened, we will abide.
It's true, the thick, brackish hue
of this degraded Bar-B-Que

Makes me op for an angel's taste

of road-kill plunder, Mainline Grace.


Oh, yank free my demon sweet-tooth--
An ancient hunger made to suit
Newport smiles and bright penny eyes,

A river littered, self despised.

Down in the hole, we gnaw and clutch.

Vision turns a convenient crutch.

What was once certain as our breath

Is nothing now, beget and beget....

Friday, November 16, 2007


EXPECTATION


Take me on a station wagon ride

through a dry-throated desert,
where hubcaps are hung as skulls,

laundry flutters and is not folded.

Lay me to rest there,

so I can watch my angular shadow

short itself out like a faulty circuit.


From a back window comes a sentimental song
no one believed in, even when it was written.

Kids play games with dust and broken furniture.

I was once one of them.
I learned that thirst was nothing

but the absence of expectation.
I let the aimless wind flip
text book pages, past illustrations

of steam boats, skeletons.

I stayed very still and listened
to my bones stretch beneath skin.


Now, I fry eggs, straighten bookshelves,

wait for death.

When I hear thunder,

it's never really thunder.


Lay me down in this desert,
in its cracked black riverbeds.
Let me use my fingers, dig.

Let me know what it is to raise

water to my lips, drink.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


OUTPOST


The outpost, mistaken for a church from a distance, reveals itself
on closer viewing to belong to an entirely different order of the
mundane. A one-eyed ex-civil servant minds the store. He
coughs abruptly, to fill the silence. Long tin shelves

are stacked with dry goods, outmoded office equipment.
Telegraph papers scuttle like tired crabs across the floor,
lifted by the hot wind. You notice on one an old message crossed
out and begun: "I wish....I wish to say....I wish I hadn't
said...Urgent."

The faces on the canned labels smile at you like an expectant
audience. They are buck-toothed youths mostly, idiot savants
perhaps, blanched and withered by the long filter of late-
afternoon sunlight. But still they beam out a kind of
uncomplicated happiness, like the memory of a first sister
before she died from scarlet fever at age two.

This is about the point where you peer out the window, looking
for the lone crow perched on a dead branch, thrusting up its
ragged black wing against the blue. It has been a long time
leaving your parents, and so you get to this. You can't find a
choice that doesn't seem false, and you can't open your mouth,
because you're afraid to hate what comes from it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


CHARMER


Oh, don't get like that. Every move I pull, you're always there
over my shoulder, shaking your head, pious and redundant. You
think it's easy slipping into what the moment requires?
Seersucker, trench coat, velvet pajamas. How many people have
I become, talking you in or out of situations? While all you do is
try to pretend I don't exist. So here's a funny question. How do I
sell myself to you?
Scenarios make the man. They might come cheap and worn-out,
but they wear whatever clothes we can spare them. You're
looking for the constants in life, while I'm a master of the
unsteady art; the shell-game of many fictions. But I can't keep it
up forever. You know the whole story about how there's only
twenty-eight basic stories to tell? Well, I'm getting tired of
shaving the angles.


I thought that by stealing every expectation, I could teach you
something, could make you accept me. Look around you.

The wheat fields bow down beneath the rain in the dark.

The wheat is broken down into loafs of enriched bread.

That bread will be shoved into plastic sleeves bearing

some cracker's likeness, who grants his down-home smile

to the emblem of a brick oven outmoded since last century.
That's your sense of natural wonder? Give me a break.

C'mon, man. It's wet outside. My engine is warm.

We've got some money to make.